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Traffic Ticket Glossary

Receiving a traffic ticket is extremely frustrating, and can be very costly. Make sure you're familiar with all of the terms and language associated with traffic tickets so that you know exactly how to go about cleaning up your driving record.

A-F Terms

Absolute Speed Limit Violation

Some states have absolute speed limits violations—meaning if you go any amount of speed over the designated limit, you'll receive a citation. For example, if the speed limit reads 55 miles per hour (MPH), and a law enforcement officer catches you going 56 MPH, you'll still receive a ticket—even for a single measly mile per hour of speeding.

Related term(s): Basic Speeding Violation

Appeal

If you lose your traffic court case, you have the option of writing an appeal to a higher court petitioning to reverse or change the decisions made against you. However, filing an appeal does not guarantee that the higher court will agree to reevaluate the case.

Related term(s): Contest, Fight

Attorney

An attorney, also known as a lawyer, is someone who is authorized to act and argue on your behalf in a court of law.

Related term(s): Lawyer

Basic Speeding Violation

Basic speeding violations dictate that a law enforcement officer can write you a ticket if they deem you to be driving too fast for current driving conditions.

For example, if the speed limit is 65 MPH but the roads are icy, 55 MPH would still be considered a dangerous speed—even though you're driving below the speed limit. Thus, a basic speeding violation might prove valid if the speed you're going puts yourself or others at danger due to weather and/or other driving conditions.

Related term(s): Absolute Speeding Violation

Citation

A citation is another name for a traffic ticket—it is a recorded violation written by a law enforcement officer in regards to any laws you have broken, and might require you to appear in court.

Related term(s): Traffic Ticket

Contest

To contest is to formally oppose or argue against someone or something by taking legal action. For example, you might wish to go to court in order to contest a parking ticket that you feel was administered unjustly.

Related term(s): Appeal, Fight

Court

Courts are institutions in which a judge presides over the acknowledgement and ultimate determination of legal matters brought up by the plaintiff and opposed by the defendant.

Most counties have traffic courts that oversee traffic-related cases.

Related term(s): Attorney, Defendant, Lawyer, Plaintiff

Dash Cam

A dash cam is a video camera, capable of recording audio and video footage, usually mounted on the dashboard of police cars. Recent laws have allowed the public to request the footage collected in traffic stops, should you want to contest a charge.

Related term(s): Appeal, Contest, Fight

Defendant

A defendant is someone accused of legal violations and therefore is facing charges in court. If you're fighting a traffic ticket in court, you would be considered the defendant.

Related term(s): Plaintiff

Dismissal

In court, if the judge makes the decision to throw out some or all charges brought against you, then they are granting you a dismissal. This often comes as a result of the plaintiff not having sufficient evidence, or you successfully proving the charges against you were unjust.

Related term(s): Appeal, Contest, Fight

DUI/DWI

Driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while impaired (DWI) are part of a group of serious criminal charges related to drinking/using/being under the influence of drugs while driving or operating a vehicle. Consult our DUI/DWI laws page for more on the charges.

Failure to Appear in Court

A “failure to appear" charge is issued after you have signed a traffic ticket promising to show up, but you in fact do not appear in court the day you are scheduled to. This may result in your license being suspended and even your arrest. Regardless of whether you forgot your court date, showed up on the wrong day, or lost your ticket, you must show up to court if you conceded to do so at the time of arrest.

Felony

A felony is considered the most serious criminal offense, and is punishable by lengthy prison time or even death (in some states). A traffic offense might be considered a felony if another person was seriously harmed or killed in a driving-related incident.

Related term(s): Misdemeanor

Fight

To fight a charge is to legally challenge it, aiming to prove the invalidity and/or unfairness of the evidence against you. Fighting a charge is the same thing as contesting a charge.

Related term(s): Appeal, Contest

G-L Terms

Infraction

An infraction is a minor offense that usually does not require a court appearance, and can be removed with the payment of a fine.

Related term(s): Non-Moving Violations

Lawyer

A lawyer is an authorized entity who argues for and/or defends a case in a court of law.

Related term(s): Attorney

M-R Terms

Misdemeanor

A misdemeanor is a classification of crime that is punishable by incarceration and requires a court appearance. Misdemeanor traffic offenses vary state.

Related term(s): Felony

Moving Violation

Moving violations are traffic laws broken while your vehicle is in motion. For example, speeding, distracted driving, and driving under the influence (DUI/DWI) are all moving violations.

Related term(s): Non-Moving Violation

Non-Moving Violation

Non-moving violations apply to situations that do not concern your vehicle's movement. Some examples include parking in front of a fire hydrant, parking in a “no-parking" zone, and driving with faulty car parts.

Related term(s): Infraction, Moving Violation

Plaintiff

The person, company, or legal agency filing charges and seeking repairs against someone else is considered to be the plaintiff. For example, if you're fighting your traffic ticket in court, the state's law enforcement agency would be the plaintiff.

Related term(s): Defendant

Points

Points are units of measure that track the severity and accumulation of traffic offenses on your record. Different offenses receive different point values.

Not all states have a point system.

Reasonable Suspicion

Reasonable suspicion outlines a set of mitigating circumstances that might lead a police officer to briefly pull you over, but not conduct a lengthy, full search and/or interrogation.

Reckless Driving

Reckless driving is a moving violation characterized by a blatant lack of care for traffic laws and other people's safety on the road. In most states, some actions that are considered reckless driving are drag racing, eluding a police officer, and driving at excessive speeds.

Red Light Violation

A red light violation occurs when the wheels of your vehicle pass over an intersection's boundary line (e.g. limit line, crosswalk) once the light has already turned red.

S-Z Terms

Speeding Violation

Speeding violations are the most common types of moving violations that people receive. Depending on which state you live in, the parameters for giving out speeding violations will differ. Laws regarding speeding violations vary by state.

Related term(s): Moving Violation

Strict Liability Offenses

Strict liability offenses are traffic law violations that do not require proof of criminal intent to result in a conviction. Some examples include speeding, not using turn signals, driving with burned out headlights, and failing to yield.

Traffic

Traffic includes all modes of transportation sharing the road for travel. Some examples are pedestrians, cars, public transportation, ridden animals, and bicyclists.

Traffic Camera

Traffic cameras are pieces of law-enforcement equipment used to automatically capture pictures of vehicles that have violated traffic laws. Such cameras have been used to ticket those who've run red lights and gone over the speed limit.

Traffic Court

Traffic court is the legal entity responsible for the overseeing and prosecuting of traffic law violations.

Related term(s): Court

Traffic Laws

Traffic laws are the rules and regulations imposed by the state that govern how people must use public roads and operate their modes of transportation (e.g. car, bike, horse, etc.).

Traffic School

Traffic school is a driver education course sometimes required as the result of certain traffic convictions. It is intended to ensure that you're refreshed and up to date on safe driving habits, as a way to prevent you committing repeated driving offenses.

Traffic school is also sometimes offered as a way to reduce or drop traffic fines and offenses on your record. Classes typically last for several hours and in some cases can be completed online.

Traffic Ticket

A traffic ticket, or citation, is written by a law enforcement officer in regards to the traffic laws that you have broken. Usually, you'll be required to pay a fine or appear in court to address the charges.

Related term(s): Citation

Traffic Ticket Lawyer

A traffic ticket lawyer is someone who you can hire in order to fight or lessen charges being brought against you for traffic law violations (e.g. speeding, running a red light, driving under the influence).

Related term(s): Attorney, Lawyer

Traffic Violation

You incur a traffic violation when you ignore or break the traffic laws in your state. Some examples of traffic violations include reckless driving, speeding, texting and driving, driving under the influence, driving without a license, and running red lights.

Related term(s): Moving Violation, Non-Moving Violation

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